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Saturday, August 30, 2008

UC Value Not Usually Just Customer-facing

Here's a constructive comment about the value of UC for "Customer UC" Well taken!

Hi, Art,

Thanks for the newsletter. There are certainly some important points about that portion of Unified Communications that are customer-facing. I hope this theme works well for you at the TMC conference.

However, I really don’t agree with your statement, “But, guess where that kind of "productivity benefit usually takes place? In customer-facing activities, better known as customer interactions, …”

Value chain analyses of any company in any specific industry shows that the spending needed to support the delivery of goods and services is distributed in many, many places that are not “customer-facing”. An exhaustive set of examples would fill a very valuable book, but here are a few:

Most high tech (including equipment, software, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, etc., etc.) manufacturing firms spend between 10% and 25% of revenues on their product development cycles; sure these include customer focus groups and validation processes, but they are not “customer facing”.

Cost of goods in manufacturing ranges from 15% to 70% and those costs are not at all customer facing, since they represent the internal or out-sourced production processes.

Hospitals (and railroads, for that matter) are profitable or not based on how smoothly they move the patients (or trains) through the system, i.e. by managing to spend the least amount of money from the fixed payment (health care reimbursement or transportation tariff) they will receive for the work. Even though a patient is perhaps the “customer” the actual costs have little to do with “customer facing” activities.

Almost all of the Enterprise overheads – HR, Finance, IT, etc. – are not specifically customer facings and usual consume 10% to 15% of revenues.

So, my conclusion is that the majority of the business processes in which UC can profitably intervene are not customer-facing.

Improving the customer interface with UC is great – go for it – but not the entire story.

Do you agree?

All the best,

Marty Parker


UniComm Consulting

408-420-5539 phone

916-652-6573 fax

Getting Payoff From "Customer UC"

August 30, 2008

Where’s The UC Beef? – “Customer UC”

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Although everyone is talking about moving traditional business telephony to “unified communications,” there are many fundamental questions that have to be answered about implementation. Usually the first questions have been ”What is it?” and “Why should an enterprise do it?”

The justification for the payoff from UC started with reducing costs, but that didn’t get end users and even business management too excited about introducing a lot of change and spending a lot of money. So, the market moved on to the next perspective of benefits from increasing individual “productivity” (“UC-U”), but even there, individual personal time-saving productivity of say, an hour a day, wasn’t too compelling, because who said the enterprise would actually gain from that benefit?

Next, the experts at UC Strategies came up with business process performance benefits, where “streamlining” business processes by reducing the delays of “human contact latency” would either generate revenues faster or minimize potential penalties or revenue losses by getting things fixed more quickly. And they called that kind of productivity “UC-B.”

But, guess where that kind of “productivity" benefit often takes place?

In customer-facing activities, better known as customer interactions, much of which will still take place through telephone call centers, now being called customer contact centers. This name change comes because of the increased use by customers of other forms of online information access and customer assistance, e.g., text messaging, chat. That is why I prefer to label such use of UC flexibility, including mobile contacts, presence management (availability), and CEBP for business process applications contacting people (both customers and customer-facing support personnel), as “Customer UC.”

So, if an enterprise is looking for the “beef of UC,” they will find an important part of it related to business processes that support customer interactions, inbound or outbound, and not just communications between people within their own organization.

Planning for “Customer UC” Implementation – Hard Questions!

However, involving customers over whom the enterprise has little control doesn’t make the task of migrating to “Customer UC” any easier. If anything, the fact that customers will demand that all forms of contact be available to them for business interactions, will be a driving function for having customer-facing staff and online self-service applications be able to communicate through all of the facilities of external UC services.

The challenge of migrating the traditional call center technologies and customer facing personnel to UC will be discussed objectively at the upcoming TMC IT WEST conference in Los Angeles. I will be moderating a panel discussion by some major players in next generation contact center technology that will address the following UC issues:

· How will the size of an organization affect Customer UC implementations?

· Who should be in charge of Customer UC migration planning?

· What should be the first step in Customer UC migration planning?

· What external expertise does Customer UC implementation planning need? Why?

· What call center processes will be impacted most by UC? Which won’t?

· What are key considerations for presence in a UC environment?

· Which customer contact end users should get “UC” capabilities first? Why?

· How will Customer self-service applications be affected by UC?

· How will outbound customer contacts be affected by consumer mobility?

· How will business process applications be affected by “CEBP?”

· How should new Customer UC capabilities be “piloted?”

· How should “agents” be trained to handle “multimodal” customers?

· How should “multimodal agents” be managed and evaluated?

· What Customer UC benefits are most important? How will they be measured?

· Top mistakes to avoid in planning to migrate to Customer UC?

The panelists have been alerted and are prepared to do battle about the best answers to these questions. So stay tuned because I will be writing about those answers after it is over.

What Do You Think?

If you want to add your own question for the panel, just send them to me ASAP. You can contact me at: or (310) 395-2360.

Monday, August 11, 2008

"Can We Talk?" - The Future of UC and Business Telephony

August 10, 2008

“Can We Talk?”

- The Future of Business Telephony With UC

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

A few weeks ago I received a phone call out of the blue from Heidi Thornlow, the Human Resources Director of Didlake, a “social enterprise dedicated to enrich the lives of adults with disabilities.” She was concerned about the trends in business communications where it is becoming harder to have effective voice conversations with people and wanted to know how UC technology can help the problem. In particular, she felt that the younger generation of workers was becoming addicted to text messaging contacts that prevented more effective verbal interaction.

The HR View

Here is her description of two types of problems she has encountered, where the lack of voice conversation has had a negative impact on business operations:

“Employee A is a high school graduate and 22 years old. She was hired into the function of automated ADP Payroll processing. She is bright, but her preferred mode of communication for problem solving and conflict resolution is texting messages. She also uses texting during business hours to conduct personal business. Her co-workers have routinely complained to human resources that she is not a "team player" and her supervisor has coached her on the importance of improving customer service relationships with her co-workers. The employee has reported responsibility for training others in her job function, but clearly prefers to communicate electronically using a variety of different modalities.”

“Employee B is 50 years old and works in the human resources area. She prefers to use the telephone and face-to-face communication to resolve areas of conflict between employees. She has discerned within her line of business that email is necessary but is not always the best venue for communication between employees, particularly as it relates to solving problems. In fact, in a group meeting that occurred very recently, misunderstandings ensued between co-workers in the course of elaborate emails that were being communicated to a band of approximately 10 different employees. A meeting had to be called to gather all employees' in the same room to tease out the miscommunication and the issues, face to face.”

The IT View

Didlake’s IT Director, Ivy Tetreault, was also invited to comment on this situation:

“I think that Human Resources and policy making needs to come in to play here so that proper office etiquette is
defined and enforced. The problem with Employee A was that she did not understand the issue; she truly believed
that her methods were fine and it was very difficult to enlighten her. With no policy or official statement from Didlake
it was hard to not look like it was my personal preference (as IT Director) that she answer her phone”
“IT comes into play with researching and implementing the most cost-effective technological options, but I think
IT also has a stake in how employees use/misuse their computers with other types of communication, particularly
personal, and those policies are generally written and approved, but not really enforced. It is also my understanding
that some companies are OK with texting and all day use of communication websites such as Myspace, which makes
it more difficult for other companies to oppose such practices.”

Looking Ahead

It is clear that there are times when voice and video conversations (TelePresence) become important in business activities, but with more people texting each other and exchanging emails as consumers, there needs to be a better way to selectively and seamlessly exploit both asynchronous and synchronous forms of business contact between people who can’t meet face-to-face.

Need For Both UC Technology and New “Etiquette”

It should be no surprise that person-to-person business contacts, which are more about exchanging information than socializing, are likely to minimize the use of phone calls that increasingly end up in “voice mail jail.” Telephone answering voice mail was a primitive method for converting a failed real-time call attempt into a useful, but asynchronous, voice message. However, with telephony presence (“busy”) information, multimodal mobile “smart-phones,” IM, and “click-to-call” contact initiation, more efficient real-time contacts are becoming available for both callers and callees.

UC technologies are aimed at providing seamless flexibility in changing from one communication modality to another, through what I have called “transmodal communication.” It is not enough to simply have various different, device-dependent modes of communication available to a user, but they must also be able to dynamically switch from one mode to another, as the situation requires. This would allow users to exploit all forms of messaging for information exchange, but easily add or transition to a voice discussion whenever appropriate.

In talking to the Didlake HR Director, it was clear that simply having “policies” for communication would not be enough. Even with new technologies in place, we will still need natural courtesies of communication etiquette to smooth out the contact relationship between the person who wants to have a conversation and the other party.

Integrating Voice Calls With Text Messaging Exchanges

A common approach being taken today, where IM capabilities are available to employees , is to not blindly place a phone call to a location-based phone number that may be busy or won’t be answered for a variety of reasons, but rather to make real-time contact with a less interruptive, more “virtual,” IM exchange first. Then, with mutual agreement, the parties can switch to a voice call (e.g., “click-to-call/talk”). However, even then there must be a comfortable procedural etiquette for both parties to follow. Maybe voice connections within a current text messaging exchange between people who are already communicating will simply start with a polite message that says, “Can we talk?”

Within an existing IM exchange, the response can be an immediate or scheduled voice connection. Within an asynchronous email exchange, it could escalate to either a real-time IM exchange and/or a call connection, based on presence availability.

It is the traditional ”blind” and interruptive person-to-person call attempts that cause the greatest amount of time wasting, because busy people are just not that “available” for ad hoc voice conversations, even with mobile devices. Since direct person-to-person asynchronous messaging has become so universal, initial business contacts don’t have to necessarily be with a real-time voice conversation. With UC and telephony presence ‘federation,” however, we should expect ad hoc phone call attempts in the future to be replaced by simple and contextually “intelligent” contact procedures. This can include orchestrating an “as soon as possible” callback option based on presence availability, when both parties are indeed available, rather than wasting time unnecessarily with frustrating back and forth caller messaging ("telephone tag") or frequent hang-ups and retries.

UC Policies Role For HR?

All the press about enterprise UC implementation has focused primarily on the enterprise “decision makers” for organizational areas that would be most affected, i.e., line-of-business management and IT technology management. However, the individual end users, who must also directly benefit from UC in order to gain practical acceptance and adoption of new technologies, have to be represented also. Since HR is an enterprise administration point for supplying employee work environment needs, perhaps they can include overseeing policies for effective use of UC capabilities as part of their responsibilities, especially for off-premise teleworkers.

The inquiry from the HR Director from Didlake suggests that HR will get involved in how people do their jobs most effectively, and understanding new UC communications usage will certainly play a strong role there. In effect, HR can be a practical buffer between business management, IT management, and the individual end user in terms of defining the UC requirements for different job categories, as well as for different work environments of the organization’s end users.

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: or (310) 395-2360.

Confused About Implementing “UC?”

The experts at published a comprehensive UC eBook that focuses very heavily on defining the various components of UC and how to systematically plan enterprise migrations from current communications technologies to a UC environment. Take a look and see if it answers your questions!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Who Really Knows Business End User UC Needs?

August 8, 2008

Who In The Enterprise Should Represent End User Needs for UC?

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

It’s getting very obvious that with mobile communications, teleworking, CEBP, and UC, every business end user will require more personalized capabilities than the traditional person-to-person forms of contact. The value of UC applications will also vary from business to business, as well as from individual to individual. The latter will be based upon their job responsibilities, as well as well as their work environments. So, when it comes to UC migration planning for UC, who really knows what end users need today vs. tomorrow?

Do We Need a New “C” Level Position In The Enterprise Organization?

Business management can take responsibility for business processes, but it is going to be difficult to also worry about every end user in the group and how they are using new UC capabilities. Did business management ever look at employee effective use of telephones in the past? The only thing they usually cared about was long distance charges, and even there, they simply asked telecom to report excessive usage.

So, if we now need to look at both effective and efficient business communications across all forms of contact, who will be qualified to determine what end users need and to evaluate the new usage metrics that UC can generate?

I don’t want to get into creating a new job title for overseeing UC planning and usage management, when we are having a difficult time defining what “UC” is all about. However, UC usage management has to be more than just about the costs of the technology and the ROI to the enterprise (UC-B), because it also has to fit the needs of different individual end users like a glove (UC-U) in order to be effective. In particular, Mobile UC, which will provide the greatest amount of productivity for both end users and business process, will demand the greatest amount of personalization and usage management oversight.

So, put your thinking caps on and get creative – send me your thoughts so we can put someone in charge of UC when it gets into your organization, including job title, skill requirements, and job responsibilities. (Should HR get involved?).

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: or (310) 395-2360.

Confused About Implementing “UC?”

The experts at published a comprehensive UC eBook that focuses very heavily on defining the various components of UC and how to systematically plan enterprise migrations from current communications technologies to a UC environment. Take a look and see if it answers your questions!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Unified Communications Pays Off For Deadlines

August 6, 2008

Looking For Real Business Payoffs From Unified Communications?

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Reducing operational costs, end user personal productivity, and even customer satisfaction have been thrown at the unified communications wall as justifications for implementing business UC technologies by enterprise organizations.

If you have been keeping up with all the blogs about the ROI of Business UC and how to plan a practical migration to unified communications, you will have noticed that everyone is emphasizing the importance of communicating with people relative to specific business process performance. That has become the centerpiece for prioritizing UC implementations. This view logically highlights the communication delays (“human contact latency”) caused by people in business process workflows as “hotspots” that can be significantly improved with the flexibility and intelligence that UC applications bring to the business operations table.

UC benefits should result in faster and better business process performance, which in turn would reduce costs, generate faster revenues, and minimize any losses or penalties that delays and missed “deadlines” could cause. It is the “missed deadline” penalty that I see as a key driver that may get overlooked in implementing UC by a business organization. This is the business productivity ROI (“UC-B”) that will get the attention of enterprise management.

Normal Business Communications vs. “Deadlines”

Wherever there are delays in operational performance because of difficulties in making contact with a person, UC communication flexibility and “intelligence” will help “streamline” any standard business process. The ROI from reducing such “human contact latency” will vary depending upon the value of the business process itself, as well as the amount of improvement that can be realized from UC. However, if there is no big penalty caused by a communication delay, e.g., a day or two, the benefits to a business process will be marginal.

Typical workflow planning allows for reasonable human interactions and task performance, both as individuals and as part of a group. Should there a significant payoff in faster revenues or lower operational costs (including lower headcount, overtime, etc.), than there is a good case for implementing UC to “streamline” a business process.

Where Do “Deadlines” Fit In?

Usually, a “deadline” problem arises because something happens unexpectedly or goes wrong in normal business process. So, although it is something that must be expected, it is usually not part of routine procedure, but an exception that may other people.

While it is nice to streamline normal processes, it is usually more critical to streamline any procedure that can be impacted by a “deadline” problem. The consequences of failing to meet a deadline situation can range from loss of life to loss of business and higher costs. So, we see communication priorities escalating and UC capabilities being exploited as soon as a deadline issue surfaces within a business process.

Deadlines can be monitored by either people or automated processes, and both should be able to trigger the appropriate response process, including notifying all the appropriate people involved as soon as possible. That is where the flexibility of multimodal communications and mobile devices come into a play to minimize the “human contact latency” of telephony and messaging.

So, when looking at business process efficiency, business organization should be looking at both “normal” work” flow operations, as well as the “exception” cases where bigger losses will result because of human contact latency. Automated monitoring and reporting of such exception situations will be a step forward in minimizing the delays of human involvement to prevent or remedy operational problems. However, that is really only the beginning of a solution that requires people to be communication-accessible and responsive as efficiently and as flexibly as possible, and not just through voice connections either!

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: or (310) 395-2360.

Confused About Implementing “UC?”

The experts at published a comprehensive UC eBook that focuses very heavily on defining the various components of UC and how to systematically plan enterprise migrations from current communications technologies to a UC environment. Take a look and see if it answers your questions!